The U.S. Army recently put out a reminder to soldiers on how to make sure their weapons continue to function when temperatures dip below freezing.
“Cold temperatures can greatly affect the maintenance, functioning, and employment of infantry weapons,” according to a Jan. 2 Army press release. “The Army will continue to operate in cold weather environments worldwide, so we must be able to maintain our weapons in any climate.”
Condensation is a killer.
Also known as sweating, condensation forms on weapons when troops move them from freezing temperatures into a warm shelter. Taking weapons dripping with condensation back out into the cold will result in the internal mechanisms freezing together, causing stoppages, the release states.
If possible, keep weapons outside during extremely cold weather. When left outside, weapons should be readily accessible, guarded, and sheltered to keep ice and snow from accumulating in the working mechanisms, sights, or barrel, according to the release.
If weapons must be kept inside a shelter, keeping them near the floor will reduce the chance of condensation. Keeping the inside temperature of the shelter close to 32 degrees Fahrenheit will also cut down on condensation, according to the release. Condensation will continue to form for about an hour after bringing weapons into a shelter, so wait until it stops before wiping weapons down.
Upon leaving the shelter, take a few minutes to pull the charging handle to the rear and drop the magazine several times to prevent parts from freezing, the release states.
Also, use “Lubricant, Arctic Weapon” on all weapons except the M249 squad automatic weapon and the M2 .50 caliber machine gun instead of Break-Free CLP, which can thicken and cause weapons to operate sluggishly or jam, the release states.
What else? How do you keep your gear ready for cold-weather environments?
Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to reflect that the event occurred on a test vessel, not aboard the Ford as previously stated.
The Navy recently got a step closer to getting the first ship in its new class of aircraft carriers ready for combat missions with a live-fire test off the coast of California.
A drone was taken out by Raytheon’s latest integrated combat system that’s being developed for the supercarrier Gerald R. Ford, Raytheon announced Feb. 5, 2019. The event took place on a test vessel off the coast of California, said Ian Davis, a Raytheon spokesman.
The system the Navy used to take down the drone is called the Ship Self-Defense System. It integrates a myriad of equipment that will be used aboard the Navy’s first Ford-class carrier, such as sensors, missiles and radars.
Raytheon program manager Mike Fabel said in a release that the new system allowed for “seamless integration” when its sensors and missiles were put to the test.
Aircraft carrier Gerald R. Ford.
(U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Christopher Delano)
“This first-of-its-kind test [proves] the ability of the system to defend our sailors,” Fabel said. “This integrated combat system success brings Ford [herself] one step closer to operational testing and deployment.”
At least five of the integrated-combat system’s capabilities, which are also used on amphibious assault ships, were used during the live-fire event, according to the release detailing the test.
That included a radar that searched for, tracked and illuminated the target; the Ship Self-Defense System, which processed the data and passed launch commands to the missile; and missiles that took out the targeted drone.
The Ford, which is the first in its class of next-generation carriers, is expected to deploy in 2022.
The first in the new generation of carriers, the flattop has faced a series of mechanical and technological setbacks. That has left lawmakers and the commander in chief pressing Navy officials to explain the issues, including those with the Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System and advanced weapons elevators.
US F-22 stealth fighters have returned to the Middle East to “defend American forces and interests” at a time of high tension with Iran, although it is unclear whether the advanced air superiority fighters have been deployed as part of the ongoing deterrence mission or for some other purpose.
An unspecified number of US Air Force F-22 Raptors arrived in the US Central Command area of responsibility June 27, 2019, flying into Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar, US Air Forces Central Command (AFCENT) said in a statement June 28, 2019.
A U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor arrives at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, June 27, 2019.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Nichelle Anderson)
This is the first time these fifth-generation fighters have flown into Qatar, as they have previously operated out of Al Dhafra in the United Arab Emirates, where a collection of US Air Force F-35A Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters are currently deployed.
The Aviationist’s David Cenciotti, citing sources, reported that nine F-22s with the 192nd Fighter Wing, Virginia Air National Guard at Joint Base Langley-Eustis in Virginia have flown into the region with at least three more expected to follow at a later point in time.
Photos of the aircraft flying in formation showed at least five fighters.
F-22s flying in formation in the Middle East.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Ashley Gardner)
The US Air Force deployed F-15C Eagles to the Middle East in early 2019 to replace F-22s after years of regular deployments to the region.
“There are currently no F-22s deployed to AFCENT, but the United States Air Force has deployed F-15Cs to Southwest Asia,” AFCENT told Air Force Magazine in March. “US Air Force aircraft routinely rotate in and out of theater to fulfill operational requirements, maintain air superiority, and protect forces on the ground.”
But now these unmatched air assets are back in the region, and their arrival, likely part of a routine deployment, comes as US troops, weapons, and equipment are increasingly moving into the CENTCOM area of responsibility to deter possible Iranian aggression.
F-22s in Qatar.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Nichelle Anderson)
As sanctions crippled the Iranian economy, intelligence reports pointing to the possibility of Iranian attacks led the US military to send the USS Abraham Lincoln carrier strike group and a bomber task force to the Middle East to confront Iran.
Those assets were followed by more naval vessels, air-and-missile defense batteries, and thousands of additional troops.
In June 2019, Iranian forces shot down a US Navy drone, a serious escalation in the wake of a string of attacks on tankers, allegedly the work of Iranian forces.
F-22 in Qatar.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Nichelle Anderson)
Although the US was prepared to retaliate with airstrikes on Iranian positions, President Donald Trump said he called off the attack at the last minute, arguing that taking life in response to an attack on an unmanned system would be a disproportionate.
But after Iranian leadership issued a statement insulting the White House, Trump changed his tune. “Any attack by Iran on anything American will be met with great and overwhelming force. In some areas, overwhelming will mean obliteration,’ Trump tweeted.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
On Dec. 19, 2017, B-52 Stratorfortress (60-0051), with the 93rd Bomb Squadron/307th BW AFRC was about to land at Barksdale AFB, Louisiana, when the crew heard something that sounded like a thud coming from the outside of the bomber. The aircraft landed safely, but once on the ground the crew discovered that the sound they heard was actually a lightning strike that tore a person-sized gash completely through the tail of the aircraft.
“Close encounters” between civil and military aircraft and lightnings occur every now and then around the globe.
In the 1980s, some F-16 Fighting Falcon jets were lost after being struck by lightinings. In one case, the lightning ignited the vapors in the empty centerline tank, which exploded causing extended damage to the aircraft’s hydraulic system.
Since lightning strikes are quite rare (1 event each year on average) these are seldom a real risk to military or civil aviation.
Furthermore, planes are shielded by a so-called Faraday Cage made by a conducting material, that blocks out external static electrical fields: charges redistribute on the conducting material and don’t affect the cage’s interior.
All commercial and mil planes have to meet several safety lightining-related requirements to get the airworthiness certifications required in the U.S. and Europe. For instance, they must be able to withstand a lightning strike without suffering significant airframe damage, without any possibility of accidental fuel ignition in the tanks and preserving the avionics and systems failures induced by the electromagnetic field created by the electrical charges of the lightning.
After assessing the damage, it was determined that the tail was damaged beyond repair and would have to be replaced: a large-scale, and uncommon, repair.
The B-52 is equipped with a lightning arrester designed to mitigate damage from lightning strikes, but this one was too strong even for the jet’s safeguards. “We see a handful of strikes every year, but out of all the maintainers we have, no one had seen lightning damage that bad,” said Lt. Col. George P. Cole, III, 307th Maintenance Squadron commander in a public release.
“I’ve been with the unit for fifteen years and this is the first time we have had to change a tail,” said Senior Master Sgt. Michael Nelson, 307th MXS flight maintenance superintendent. “We only had one other maintainer on our team that has ever changed one.”
According to the U.S. Air Force, Master Sgt. Eric Allison, 307th MXS B-52 aircraft mechanic, was the only maintainer on the eight person team with experience replacing a tail prior to the lighting strike. “It’s challenging because you have to position the tail just right and it is a two-thousand pound piece of metal,” he said. “It is like lining up the hinges when replacing a door,” said Tech. Sgt. David Emberton, 307th MXS B-52 aircraft mechanic. “You have to line it up correctly and the whole time it is twisting and flexing.”
Another possible obstacle was finding a replacement but instead of ordering it from the 309th AMARG (Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group), the maintainers from the 307th Maintenance Squadron found that one tail was available from a retired jet.
“Having that tail on hand saved us a great deal of time because ordering it from AMARG would have taken months,” Nelson said.
So, the 307th MXS completed the works and made the B-52 available for flight operations in just a couple of weeks. Sporting a different tail reclaimed from another decommissioned B-52, still able to take to air again.
By the way, the Stratofortress has already proved it can fly with damages to the tail: actually, even with a detached vertical stabilizer, as happened 54 years ago, when a B-52H involved in a test flight lost its tail at about 14,000 feet over New Mexico. Six hours later, the civilian test pilot Chuck Fisher and his three-man crew managed to perform the first and only Stratofortress’s tailless landing.
A Marine blinded by an improvised explosive device, an Army sergeant who rescued a sailor wounded by an IED, and a Coast Guard technician who did rescue work in the hurricanes will be among the special guests at the State of the Union address Tuesday.
In announcing the list of First Lady Melania Trump’s 11 special guests, the White House said among them would be retired Cpl. Matthew Bradford, who was blinded and lost both legs when he stepped on an IED in Iraq in 2007.
After multiple surgeries and therapies, Bradford became the first Marine with such severe injuries ever to re-enlist, the White House said. Bradford re-enlisted in 2010 and has since retired.
Bradford, now 30, originally from Winchester, Kentucky, was assigned to work with other wounded Marines at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, when he re-enlisted.
Joining Bradford in the First Lady’s section in the House balcony for President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress will be Staff Sgt. Justin Peck, who has served eight years in the Army.
Stacy was severely wounded by an IED while clearing the second floor of a hospital building. Ignoring the threat from other IEDs, Peck rushed into the building, applied a tourniquet, put in an endotracheal tube and was “directly responsible for saving Chief Petty Officer Stacy’s life,” the White House said.
Another special guest will be Coast Guard Aviation Electronics Technician 2nd Class Ashlee Leppert. While working out of the Coast Guard Air Station New Orleans last year, Leppert helped to rescue “dozens of Americans imperiled during the devastating hurricane season,” the White House said.
In announcing the list, White House Press Secretary said the three service members and the other eight special guests “represent the unbreakable American spirit” that Trump will cite as being a major factor in U.S. successes at home and abroad.
Just as dust gathers in corners and along bookshelves in our homes, dust piles up in space too. But when the dust settles in the solar system, it’s often in rings. Several dust rings circle the Sun. The rings trace the orbits of planets, whose gravity tugs dust into place around the Sun, as it drifts by on its way to the center of the solar system.
The dust consists of crushed-up remains from the formation of the solar system, some 4.6 billion years ago — rubble from asteroid collisions or crumbs from blazing comets. Dust is dispersed throughout the entire solar system, but it collects at grainy rings overlying the orbits of Earth and Venus, rings that can be seen with telescopes on Earth. By studying this dust — what it’s made of, where it comes from, and how it moves through space — scientists seek clues to understanding the birth of planets and the composition of all that we see in the solar system.
Two recent studies report new discoveries of dust rings in the inner solar system. One study uses NASA data to outline evidence for a dust ring around the Sun at Mercury’s orbit. A second study from NASA identifies the likely source of the dust ring at Venus’ orbit: a group of never-before-detected asteroids co-orbiting with the planet.
“It’s not every day you get to discover something new in the inner solar system,” said Marc Kuchner, an author on the Venus study and astrophysicist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “This is right in our neighborhood.”
In this illustration, several dust rings circle the Sun. These rings form when planets’ gravities tug dust grains into orbit around the Sun. Recently, scientists have detected a dust ring at Mercury’s orbit. Others hypothesize the source of Venus’ dust ring is a group of never-before-detected co-orbital asteroids.
(NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/Mary Pat Hrybyk-Keith)
Another ring around the Sun
Guillermo Stenborg and Russell Howard, both solar scientists at the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, D.C., did not set out to find a dust ring. “We found it by chance,” Stenborg said, laughing. The scientists summarized their findings in a paper published in The Astrophysical Journal on Nov. 21, 2018.
They describe evidence of a fine haze of cosmic dust over Mercury’s orbit, forming a ring some 9.3 million miles wide. Mercury — 3,030 miles wide, just big enough for the continental United States to stretch across — wades through this vast dust trail as it circles the Sun.
Ironically, the two scientists stumbled upon the dust ring while searching for evidence of a dust-free region close to the Sun. At some distance from the Sun, according to a decades-old prediction, the star’s mighty heat should vaporize dust, sweeping clean an entire stretch of space. Knowing where this boundary is can tell scientists about the composition of the dust itself, and hint at how planets formed in the young solar system.
So far, no evidence has been found of dust-free space, but that’s partly because it would be difficult to detect from Earth. No matter how scientists look from Earth, all the dust in between us and the Sun gets in the way, tricking them into thinking perhaps space near the Sun is dustier than it really is.
Stenborg and Howard figured they could work around this problem by building a model based on pictures of interplanetary space from NASA’s STEREO satellite — short for Solar and Terrestrial Relations Observatory.
Scientists think planets start off as mere grains of dust. They emerge from giant disks of gas and dust that circle young stars. Gravity and other forces cause material within the disk to collide and coalesce.
(NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory)
Ultimately, the two wanted to test their new model in preparation for NASA’s Parker Solar Probe, which is currently flying a highly elliptic orbit around the Sun, swinging closer and closer to the star over the next seven years. They wanted to apply their technique to the images Parker will send back to Earth and see how dust near the Sun behaves.
Scientists have never worked with data collected in this unexplored territory, so close to the Sun. Models like Stenborg and Howard’s provide crucial context for understanding Parker Solar Probe’s observations, as well as hinting at what kind of space environment the spacecraft will find itself in — sooty or sparkling clean.
Two kinds of light show up in STEREO images: light from the Sun’s blazing outer atmosphere — called the corona — and light reflected off all the dust floating through space. The sunlight reflected off this dust, which slowly orbits the Sun, is about 100 times brighter than coronal light.
“We’re not really dust people,” said Howard, who is also the lead scientist for the cameras on STEREO and Parker Solar Probe that take pictures of the corona. “The dust close to the Sun just shows up in our observations, and generally, we have thrown it away.” Solar scientists like Howard — who study solar activity for purposes such as forecasting imminent space weather, including giant explosions of solar material that the Sun can sometimes send our way — have spent years developing techniques to remove the effect of this dust. Only after removing light contamination from dust can they clearly see what the corona is doing.
The two scientists built their model as a tool for others to get rid of the pesky dust in STEREO — and eventually Parker Solar Probe — images, but the prediction of dust-free space lingered in the back of their minds. If they could devise a way of separating the two kinds of light and isolate the dust-shine, they could figure out how much dust was really there. Finding that all the light in an image came from the corona alone, for example, could indicate they’d found dust-free space at last.
Mercury’s dust ring was a lucky find, a side discovery Stenborg and Howard made while they were working on their model. When they used their new technique on the STEREO images, they noticed a pattern of enhanced brightness along Mercury’s orbit — more dust, that is — in the light they’d otherwise planned to discard.
“It wasn’t an isolated thing,” Howard said. “All around the Sun, regardless of the spacecraft’s position, we could see the same five percent increase in dust brightness, or density. That said something was there, and it’s something that extends all around the Sun.”
Scientists never considered that a ring might exist along Mercury’s orbit, which is maybe why it’s gone undetected until now, Stenborg said. “People thought that Mercury, unlike Earth or Venus, is too small and too close to the Sun to capture a dust ring,” he said. “They expected that the solar wind and magnetic forces from the Sun would blow any excess dust at Mercury’s orbit away.”
With an unexpected discovery and sensitive new tool under their belt, the researchers are still interested in the dust-free zone. As Parker Solar Probe continues its exploration of the corona, their model can help others reveal any other dust bunnies lurking near the Sun.
Asteroids hiding in Venus’ orbit
This isn’t the first time scientists have found a dust ring in the inner solar system. Twenty-five years ago, scientists discovered that Earth orbits the Sun within a giant ring of dust. Others uncovered a similar ring near Venus’ orbit, first using archival data from the German-American Helios space probes in 2007, and then confirming it in 2013, with STEREO data.
Since then, scientists determined the dust ring in Earth’s orbit comes largely from the asteroid belt, the vast, doughnut-shaped region between Mars and Jupiter where most of the solar system’s asteroids live. These rocky asteroids constantly crash against each other, sloughing dust that drifts deeper into the Sun’s gravity, unless Earth’s gravity pulls the dust aside, into our planet’s orbit.
At first, it seemed likely that Venus’ dust ring formed like Earth’s, from dust produced elsewhere in the solar system. But when Goddard astrophysicist Petr Pokorny modeled dust spiraling toward the Sun from the asteroid belt, his simulations produced a ring that matched observations of Earth’s ring — but not Venus’.
This discrepancy made him wonder if not the asteroid belt, where else does the dust in Venus’ orbit come from? After a series of simulations, Pokorny and his research partner Marc Kuchner hypothesized it comes from a group of never-before-detected asteroids that orbit the Sun alongside Venus. They published their work in The Astrophysical Journal Letters on March 12, 2019.
“I think the most exciting thing about this result is it suggests a new population of asteroids that probably holds clues to how the solar system formed,” Kuchner said. If Pokorny and Kuchner can observe them, this family of asteroids could shed light on Earth and Venus’ early histories. Viewed with the right tools, the asteroids could also unlock clues to the chemical diversity of the solar system.
Because it’s dispersed over a larger orbit, Venus’ dust ring is much larger than the newly detected ring at Mercury’s. About 16 million miles from top to bottom and 6 million miles wide, the ring is littered with dust whose largest grains are roughly the size of those in coarse sandpaper. It’s about 10 percent denser with dust than surrounding space. Still, it’s diffuse — pack all the dust in the ring together, and all you’d get is an asteroid two miles across.
Using a dozen different modeling tools to simulate how dust moves around the solar system, Pokorny modeled all the dust sources he could think of, looking for a simulated Venus ring that matched the observations. The list of all the sources he tried sounds like a roll call of all the rocky objects in the solar system: Main Belt asteroids, Oort Cloud comets, Halley-type comets, Jupiter-family comets, recent collisions in the asteroid belt.
“But none of them worked,” Kuchner said. “So, we started making up our own sources of dust.”
Perhaps, the two scientists thought, the dust came from asteroids much closer to Venus than the asteroid belt. There could be a group of asteroids co-orbiting the Sun with Venus — meaning they share Venus’ orbit, but stay far away from the planet, often on the other side of the Sun. Pokorny and Kuchner reasoned a group of asteroids in Venus’ orbit could have gone undetected until now because it’s difficult to point earthbound telescopes in that direction, so close to the Sun, without light interference from the Sun.
Asteroids represent building blocks of the solar system’s rocky planets. When they collide in the asteroid belt, they shed dust that scatters throughout the solar system, which scientists can study for clues to the early history of planets.
(NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center Conceptual Image Lab)
Co-orbiting asteroids are an example of what’s called a resonance, an orbital pattern that locks different orbits together, depending on how their gravitational influences meet. Pokorny and Kuchner modeled many potential resonances: asteroids that circle the Sun twice for every three of Venus’ orbits, for example, or nine times for Venus’ ten, and one for one. Of all the possibilities, one group alone produced a realistic simulation of the Venus dust ring: a pack of asteroids that occupies Venus’ orbit, matching Venus’ trips around the Sun one for one.
But the scientists couldn’t just call it a day after finding a hypothetical solution that worked. “We thought we’d discovered this population of asteroids, but then had to prove it and show it works,” Pokorny said. “We got excited, but then you realize, ‘Oh, there’s so much work to do.'”
They needed to show that the very existence of the asteroids makes sense in the solar system. It would be unlikely, they realized, that asteroids in these special, circular orbits near Venus arrived there from somewhere else like the asteroid belt. Their hypothesis would make more sense if the asteroids had been there since the very beginning of the solar system.
The scientists built another model, this time starting with a throng of 10,000 asteroids neighboring Venus. They let the simulation fast forward through 4.5 billion years of solar system history, incorporating all the gravitational effects from each of the planets. When the model reached present-day, about 800 of their test asteroids survived the test of time.
Pokorny considers this an optimistic survival rate. It indicates that asteroids could have formed near Venus’ orbit in the chaos of the early solar system, and some could remain there today, feeding the dust ring nearby.
The next step is actually pinning down and observing the elusive asteroids. “If there’s something there, we should be able to find it,” Pokorny said. Their existence could be verified with space-based telescopes like Hubble, or perhaps interplanetary space-imagers similar to STEREO’s. Then, the scientists will have more questions to answer: How many of them are there, and how big are they? Are they continuously shedding dust, or was there just one break-up event?
In this illustration, an asteroid breaks apart under the powerful gravity of LSPM J0207+3331, a white dwarf star located around 145 light-years away. Scientists think crumbling asteroids supply the dust rings surrounding this old star.
(NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/Scott Wiessinger)
Dust rings around other stars
The dust rings that Mercury and Venus shepherd are just a planet or two away, but scientists have spotted many other dust rings in distant star systems. Vast dust rings can be easier to spot than exoplanets, and could be used to infer the existence of otherwise hidden planets, and even their orbital properties.
But interpreting extrasolar dust rings isn’t straightforward. “In order to model and accurately read the dust rings around other stars, we first have to understand the physics of the dust in our own backyard,” Kuchner said. By studying neighboring dust rings at Mercury, Venus and Earth, where dust traces out the enduring effects of gravity in the solar system, scientists can develop techniques for reading between the dust rings both near and far.
This article originally appeared on NASA. Follow @NASA on Twitter.
Oscar Davis Jr. wasn’t in uniform. He had no maroon beret. And the 92-year-old could hardly be expected to jump from an airplane.
But in a room filled with 82nd Airborne Division paratroopers on Saturday, Davis fit right in.
“He’s still one of us,” said Capt. Andrew Hammack, commander of A Company, 1st Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment. “He’s just not currently reporting for duty.”
More than 70 years ago, a much younger Davis was assigned to “Animal” Company of the 505th PIR. He served with the unit in Holland and then Belgium during World War II.
It was in the latter, amid the Ardennes forest and the Battle of the Bulge, that Davis was wounded.
With the Germans shelling his unit, Pvt. Davis — then assigned as a radiotelephone operator — was knocked down by a large piece of shrapnel.
Only the radio on his back protected him from sure death. But the German artillery barrage also knocked down a tree and through a stroke of bad luck, that tree landed on Davis, pinning him and causing a significant spinal injury.
The young paratrooper would spend three weeks paralyzed from the waist down, but would ultimately rejoin his unit in Germany.
The wait for recognition for his injuries, however, was much longer.
In a dining room at Heritage Place in Fayetteville, where Davis now lives, the old paratrooper finally received his Purple Heart Medal, 72 years, one month, and two weeks after he earned it.
The medal, awarded to troops who are wounded or killed in action against an enemy of the United States, traces its roots to the nation’s oldest military medal, the Badge of Military Merit that was first awarded by Gen. George Washington.
Davis had long ago been told he would receive the honor. But the award paperwork was never signed amid the business of the war.
Decades later, he said the medal was worth the wait, smiling from ear to ear as Lt. Col. Marcus Wright leaned down to pin it to his jacket.
“This has been some day,” Davis said. “I couldn’t believe all this was going to happen. I just want to thank the lord.”
Friends, family, and more than two dozen soldiers with the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division attended the ceremony.
Wright, the commander of the 1st Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, presided over the event.
“All I can say about this is, ‘Wow,'” he said. “I’m absolutely honored to be here today.”
Wright said Davis was part of the division’s storied history. And played an important role in the 82nd Airborne earning one of its many nicknames.
Following the war, with the division assigned to occupation duty in Berlin, Wright said Davis and another soldier were working a checkpoint when an officer’s vehicle drove past.
Davis and the other paratrooper snapped to attention “like any good enlisted soldier,” Wright said. When the vehicle passed them, they relaxed, but realized the car had slowed to a stop just past their post.
They watched as the car backed up through their checkpoint, as the two soldiers again snapped to attention, he said. Then the vehicle pulled forward again, as the paratroopers snapped to attention a third time as the car finally drove off.
A short time later, the sergeant of the guard arrived and informed the paratroopers that famed Gen. George Patton was in the vehicle. And that he was so impressed by their discipline that he had to drove by and see it again.
Patton would give the 82nd Airborne Division its nickname of “America’s Guard of Honor,” saying, “In all my years in the Army and all the honor guards I have ever seen, the 82nd’s honor guard is undoubtedly the best.”
Wright said there’s little doubt Davis contributed to the good impression the division’s paratrooper had on Patton.
“This fine young gentleman here is part of that legacy,” he said. “This is part of our history.”
After the medal was awarded, dozens of people waited in line to shake the veteran’s hand and offer their congratulations. Soldiers from A Company presented Davis with a unit coin and a shirt.
The medal ceremony was the culmination of nearly two years of work by the Veterans Legacy Foundation, a Harnett County-based volunteer organization that has helped more than 100 veterans receive military awards that are owed to them.
John Elskamp, executive director of the foundation, said volunteers scoured an archive of war reports to find proof of Davis’ injuries.
The Purple Heart was the latest medal the group had recovered for Davis. In late 2015, the group helped the World War II veteran to receive the Bronze Star and other medals that were awarded to him in a ceremony at the U.S. Army Airborne Special Operations Museum.
Gen. Robert B. Abrams recalled once being awakened at 2 a.m. on a Friday. It was the early 1980s then, and he was a young lieutenant stationed in a cavalry squadron in West Germany.
It was a unit alert that had woken him from his sleep, he recalled. Back then, those alerts could come at any time, completely unannounced. And when they came, soldiers in area bars would need to report to their units, in whatever state they were in, within two hours.
Abrams, commander, US Army Forces Command, spoke earlier this month at the Association of the U.S. Army’s Annual Meeting and Exposition.
Once soldiers were assembled, he said, they had four hours to get all their gear and ammunition loaded on trucks and tanks, and move out to their tactical assembly areas. They had to be ready to cross the border into East Germany, if called to do so.
“Everyone had a sense of urgency and knew what was at stake,” he said, remembering his early days in the Army.
However, the mindset is beginning to shift, he said. “That’s the direction the Army is now taking.”
Abrams pointed to a number of readiness indicators, including training, which he said has improved over the last couple of years.
Recently, the Army has shifted its training focus to a “decisive-action training environment that’s very robust,” he said.
The DATE training environment includes training with both conventional and non-conventional forces in all domains during every combat training center, or CTC, rotation, he said.
Leading up to the CTC rotation, units have also improved their home-station training, he said, adding that there’s been a 300 percent increase in company-level, live-fire exercises at home station over the last two years.
Even aviation units at the platoon and company levels are now participating in live-fire exercises, something not widely seen since before the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, he said.
“We’ve made huge progress over the last couple of years in reducing the number of non-deployable (soldiers),” Abrams said, adding that it’s still the No. 1 readiness challenge facing the Army today.
Some units have seven or eight percent non-deployables, he said, so there’s still some work to do to shrink those numbers.
Abrams attributed improvements in reducing the number of non-deployable soldiers to several factors, including the fielding this year of the commander’s Medical Readiness Dashboard. That computerized medical update allows company and battalion commanders to better understand and deal with the medical status of their soldiers.
Improved physical training is another area the general credited with reducing injuries and elevating fitness levels. He gave a shout-out to a pilot program now underway that is incorporating a new soldier readiness test involving four brigades from FORSCOM that are evaluating “all five measurements of fitness.”
The Army is moving away from an “industrial-age medical system,” to one that’s more like the type used for professional athletes that gives soldiers the care they need “at their point of impact and at the point of injury,” he noted.
The importance of care is so important because “muscular-skeletal injuries continue to impact soldiers,” he said.
Twelve of the Army’s 25 brigade combat teams have, to date, received their complete authorized stockage lists, Abrams said, and US Army Materiel Command is working on equipping the rest. ASLs consist of such things as repair parts, fuel, and construction material kept at each BCT distribution center.
To ensure the equipment is sufficient and where it needs to be, Abrams said FORSCOM conducts monthly logistics and aviation readiness reviews.
The biggest struggle in equipping the force right now, he said, is getting spare parts to where they are needed in a timely manner. Currently, he said, the wait time is about five times what it should be.
A big part of increasing readiness, Abrams said, involves adequate and predictable funding from Congress.
“Continuing resolutions crush us at the unit level,” he said. “We are unable on a monthly basis to adequately plan to support training and requisition repair parts for our fleet at a tempo we are training.”
Abrams admitted that the Army doesn’t have an adequate narrative about readiness to present to lawmakers. “We in the military intuitively know what readiness means but have been unable to articulate it to the public. Everybody wants a ready force but we have a hard time describing it.”
One thing is glaringly obvious about the Coast Guard’s medium endurance cutters: they are old. Real old. According to the Sixteenth Edition of the Naval Institute Guide to Combat Fleets of the World, 15 of the Coast Guard’s 28 medium endurance cutters are over 45 years old, and only three of them were commissioned after music superstar Taylor Swift was born. You could say they are due to be replaced.
Fortunately, the Coast Guard has been working on a replacement. They call it the Heritage-class Offshore Patrol Cutter, and according to a handout WATM obtained at the 2018 SeaAirSpace expo in National Harbor, Maryland, it will be replacing all 28 of the medium-endurance cutters currently in service.
A Reliance-class medium endurance cutter. Most of these ships are over 50 years old.
These cutters, the first of which will be named USCGC Argus, will pack a 57mm gun (like the National Security Cutter and Littoral Combat Ship), as well as be able to operate a helicopter. Globalsecurity.org notes that the cutters will displace 3,200 tons and will have a top speed of at least 22 knots.
The Coast Guard currently operates 14 Reliance-class cutters, from a class of 17 built in the 1960s. Three of the vessels were decommissioned and transferred to allied navies. These vessels displace about 879 tons and have a top speed of 18 knots. Their primary armament is a 25mm Bushmaster chain gun, like that used on the M2 Bradley.
A Famous-class medium endurance cutter. These vessels can be equipped with Harpoon anti-ship missiles and a Phalanx close-in weapon system.
The other major medium endurance cutter is the Famous-class cutter. This cutter comes in at 1,200 tons, and has a 76mm OTO Melara gun as its primary armament. It has a top speed of just under 20 knots, and is also capable of carrying two quad Mk 141 launchers for Harpoon anti-ship missiles and a Mk 15 Phalanx Close-In Weapon System (CIWS).
Finally, there is the Alex Haley, an Edenton-class salvage tug acquired by the Coast Guard after the United States Navy retired the three-ship class. Two sisters were transferred to South Korea. It does remain to be seen how 25 Offshore Patrol Cutters can replace 28 older hulls, though.
You’ve seen those photos from the Civil War era of generals loaded with facial hair. We’re talking mustaches that make the one legendary fighter pilot Robin Olds wore look puny and beards that were awesome AF.
For many decades, though, the beards have been verboten. This is because of World War I – or more specifically, the use of chemical weapons during World War I. The gas mask became a crucial piece of kit, and if you had a beard, the gas mask wouldn’t seal properly. This is not a good thing when the enemy uses anything from mustard to VX. In fact, to quote Egon Spengler, “It would be bad.”
According to the Army Times, though, that could be changing. One of the reasons is to accommodate some religions, notably Sikhs, who are forbidden to cut their hair. But another reason is the popularity achieved by special operations troops who have put the hurt on terrorist groups like al-Qaeda and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.
And it’s not only “operator chic” that drives some to adopt the whiskered look. These days it seems if you’re a man under 35 and you don’t have tats and some facial shag, you just ain’t cool.
“Authorizing the wear of beards in the Army, in addition to approved religious accommodations policy, is a topic that soldiers have inquired about recently across the force,” Sgt. Major of the Army Dan Dailey said in a statement to the Army Times. “As of now, there are no plans to change the policy. Army leaders and researchers are currently reviewing the wear of beards by soldiers in the Army. Any potential change in policy will be made with careful consideration to the professionalism, standards, discipline, readiness and safety of all of our soldiers.”
The big hurdle, though, remains the fit of gas masks. The Army tested not only the current respirator, the M50 Joint Service General Purpose Mask, but also the Joint Service Lightweight Integrated Suit Technology and the gear worn by the chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosives specialists in the Army.
“The baseline folks passed,” Lamar Garrett, of the Army Research Laboratory said. “Everyone else degraded in some form or another.”
“If we really wanted to do some serious analysis, we could look at what was the degradation of an individual with a beard that’s an inch-and-a-half, two inches, etc.,” Garrett added.
The Army Times note that the special operations troops have a specialized gas mask that does seal with beards, but the cost is very high – and the budget doesn’t have room for that to be sent to all soldiers.
At this time, the Soldier Research Development Engineering Center is doing more research into not only beards, but other forms of religious headgear and large amounts of hair. This first round of testing will go through June.
We all know that Marines win our nation’s battles, and their discipline under pressure is a matter of life or death. However, and as weird as it may seem, there is a lot that the driving range and the fairway can teach us about winning battles. I know because I recently joined my friend Marine Major Ben Ortiz and his fellow golf warrior, Erik Anders Lang, for a round at the Desert Winds golf course on Marine Corps Base Twentynine Palms.
Major Ben Ortiz or, ‘Bennie Boy’ as I call him, have known each other since our first days at the Naval Academy. I already know what you’re thinking… of course, two Academy grads and officers are golfers. But literally, nothing could be further from the truth. Golf was never supposed to be part of either of our lives.
“Seriously, dude? You play golf, now?” I ask a little sarcastically as Bennie and I walk to the clubhouse.
Bennie is a Mustang (an officer who was enlisted first), and he grew up in a neighborhood outside of Chicago where even the mention of golf could get you ridiculed for life or worse. After joining the Marines he deployed multiple times to Iraq and Afghanistan where he’s been a kind of intelligence officer that grunts love and terrorists hate. So when he asked me to play golf with him, I immediately started to question his mental state.
“Dude, you have no idea. Golf has made me a better Marine. More focused…lethal.” Bennie smiles as he justifies why we are on a golf course at 0730.
Major Ortiz tees off with focus
As we approach the clubhouse, I meet a squad of Marines who have been recruited to play with us this morning, but we are also joined by a true golf warrior, Erik Anders Lang. Erik is a bit of an anomaly himself. He never picked up a club until his thirties, and now he travels the world for his seriesAdventures In Golf. At first, I am a little wary that Erik, who looks a little like he just rolled out of bed, can compete with the Marines on their home turf. But after watching Erik tee off with a nearly 350-yard drive down the center of the first hole, I realize that I am not only watching a true golfer but a sniper.
As Bennie, Erik, and I walk the desert course we begin to chat about the game and the Marine Corps. At each hole, I realize the golfers are fighting the terrain, the weather and even their own subconscious, an enemy more elusive than the adversaries Bennie and other Marines face abroad. As we near the end of the course, Bennie begins to explain his theory a little more.
“Intel is all about collecting and analyzing information and then turning it into something useful for the Grunts. A lot of people think that bad intel is a result of bad information, but there is a second and even more important component, the analyst. If I am distracted or unfocused, I can be the weak link. Golf, and the battle on each hole, has taught me about mental and physical discipline.”
Major Ortiz (4th from left) and Erik Lang (center) after a round of golf.
Erik smiles and nods in agreement. He knows the mental strength it takes to master the club. After a quick competition on the driving range, which Erik (the sniper) wins, we sit down in the chow hall for an After Action of the morning’s performance. Bennie has changed out of his golf clothes and into cammies, and Erik begins to explain to us how Tiger Woods inspired him to pick up a club.
“Not everyone is perfect in golf,” Erik starts. “He’s human, he’s obviously made mistakes, but if you watch carefully you can see how he processes the course and the ball with each shot.”
Erik’s got a point. Now, I am pretty sure that when Tiger Woods stepped onto the 18th green, poised to win the 2019 Masters, there was almost nothing going through his mind other than the basics of putting. In the seconds before Tiger’s final stroke, there was no time for self-doubt, fear or even distractions from the thousands standing around him and the millions watching all across the globe. With one quick putt, Tiger was back on top of the world and his pure calmness, poise, and discipline under such pressure is something we all can admire, especially Marines like me.
But unlike Tiger, Marines must use these same attributes for something much bigger than a green jacket. Now, I begin to see what both Bennie and Erik are stressing to me. Golf is a sport of discipline and focus which can extend beyond the course and onto the most stressful battlefields abroad.
Bennie now speaks to the group before we roll out for the day.
“I hope that other Marines will realize that the course is much more than a game. It’s about training too.”
I think Bennie’s onto something that both Erik Lang and Tiger Woods already know: maybe we can all be better Marines if we spend a little time on the course.
Major Ortiz (left) and the Author (right) after our round of golf. Bennie’s war face is the same from Quantico.
On the increasingly crowded battlefields of Afghanistan, a feared, commando-style Taliban unit is gaining attention for a series of deadly attacks on Afghan security forces.
Known as “Sara Kheta” — Red Unit or Danger Unit in Pashto — it is said to be the Taliban’s elite special-forces group. Unlike regular Taliban fighters, analysts say the outfit is better trained and armed and is sent on special operations targeting bases and posts of the Afghan National Army and police force.
The so-called Red Unit’s rise has raised concerns among government forces struggling to fend off the Taliban since the withdrawal of NATO troops in 2014 and suffering record casualty rates on the battlefield.
When did it emerge?
The first mention of a Taliban “special-forces unit” was in June 2015, when Taliban fighterspublished photos on social media purportedly showing a training camp where recruits were being trained on heavy machine guns and anti-aircraft guns.
In December 2015, the Taliban said it was unleashing its special forces to eliminate fighters allied with the militant group Islamic State (IS) that had emerged in Afghanistan earlier that year.
In August 2016, Afghan military officials confirmed the existence of the Taliban’s Red Unit in the southern province of Helmand.
But the unit has fought its way to greater prominence in the past month or so. On Nov. 1, the Taliban uploaded photos of the unit on its official Telegram account. The photos show members of Red Unit in new uniforms and armed with the kind of tactical assault gear worn by soldiers and law enforcement teams around the world.
Weeks later, Afghan officials blamed it for a spate of attacks on Nov. 13 and 14 during whichdozens of Afghan security personnel were killed in the southern province of Kandahar and the western province of Farah.
On Dec. 3, Afghanistan’s intelligence agency said the commander of the new unit, Mullah Shah Wali, also known Mullah Naser, waskilled in an air operation in Helmand Province the week before.
How is it different from other Taliban units?
“What distinguishes this force from other fighting units is its intensive and longer training, the degree of vetting, its tactics, weapons and equipment, and structure,” says Borhan Osman, senior Afghanistan analyst at the International Crisis Group (ICG).
“The unit is mainly used for quick interventions, high-value targets, special operations, or offensives such as capturing a highly strategic area, breaking major sieges of regular Taliban forces, jailbreaks, and escorting important leaders,” Osman adds.
Military analysts estimate the size of the unit at anywhere from several hundred to up to 1,000 fighters.
Those tactics and capabilities were on show in the November attacks when Afghan officials said the unit, equipped with lasers and night-vision gear, attacked police checkpoints and army bases and rapidly left the scene to avoid NATO air strikes. On Nov. 14, the unit drove a pickup truck loaded with explosives into a police checkpoint point and then launched attacks on 14 nearby posts, killing over two dozen police officers.
In Farah Province the same day, Taliban units with night-vision scopes killed eight police officers in their beds early in the morning. Three police officers in the province were also killed in night attacks around the same time.
The U.S. military has equipped many Afghan soldiers with night-vision equipment, but police forces rarely possess them.
“The Red Unit and regular Taliban forces use the same types of weapons: small arms, RPGs, and machine guns,” says Bill Roggio, senior fellow at the Washington-based think tank Foundation for Defense of Democracies and editor of the Long War Journal. “Typically, the Red Unit has newer weapons, and is occasionally seen with night-vision devices that have been seized from Afghan forces.”
The unit is believed to equipped with the Taliban’s most advanced weaponry, including 82-millimeter rockets, laser pointers, heavy machine guns, and U.S.-made M-4 assault rifles. They are also known to have used and possess dozens of armored Humvees and Ford Ranger pickup trucks stolen from Afghan forces.
Ahmad K. Majidyar, a South Asia and Middle East expert for the Washington-based Middle East Institute, says it is misleading to call the unit a special-forces outfit because it lacks elite commando capabilities of even the Afghan Special Forces, let alone advanced elite commando units such as the U.S. SEAL Team Six.
“The Red Team is more a heavily armed group used in surprise attacks against vulnerable Afghan security check posts,” he says. “It also has well-trained snipers that aid ordinary Taliban militants in their attack against the Afghan forces.”
The unit has also spread from southern Afghanistan, where it was established, and has expanded into eastern and western regions.
“The Red Unit poses a significant threat to Afghan forces,” Roggio says. “It has had great success on the battlefield when going head to head with Afghan units.”
Roggio says the unit operates like shock troops, often leading assaults on Afghan district centers, military bases, and outposts.
The NATO-led mission in Afghanistan has said it has not seen any evidence of the Taliban possessing advanced weaponry like night-vision equipment, which Afghan officials say the militants have purchased on the black market or have accumulated after overrunning Afghan army bases.
But Afghan military officials have confirmed the unit’s capabilities.
Kandahar’s powerful police chief, General Abdul Raziq, has said the Red Unit is part of the Taliban’s “new approach and new tactics,” adding that it was “well equipped and highly armed.”
Majidyar says he expects the Red Unit to come under increasing pressure if President Donald Trump relaxes U.S. rules of engagement.
“The Taliban will suffer more significant losses on the battlefield in the coming months,” he predicts.
Corporal Legend, a mascot who has served as a Parris Island morale booster since 2011, passed away Sept. 17, according to a release from the depot.
The English Bulldog was found unresponsive and taken to the depot’s veterinary clinic where he was pronounced dead, according to the release. It states a funeral ceremony will be held on Oct. 13 at 2 p.m. at the depot’s mascot cemetery.
Cpl. Legend, the depot’s 20th mascot, was diagnosed with a heart condition earlier this year and placed on a limited work schedule pending his retirement, according to the release.
“Legend was a very relaxed dog, ” Lance Cpl. Alicia Stull, administrative clerk with Headquarters and Service Battalion along with Legend’s caretaker since August 2016, said in the release. “It taught me how to be more patient as a person, since he was a very laid back dog.”
As a moral booster, he participated in the motivational run on family day, the depot’s morning colors ceremony, and graduation, the release states.
Cpt. Legend enlisted in the Marine Corps on Nov. 4, 2011 and graduated from Hotel Company, 2nd Recruit Training Battalion, as an honor graduate, earning him meritorious private first class. He was preceded by Sgt. Archibald Hummer, who died in September of that year.
“Each time I left my room he would run behind me and look at me like I was never going to come back,” said Stull. “So I always took him with me wherever I went. He was like my baby.”
Opha Mae is set to take over the post as the depot’s first female mascot. She is currently in training with Platoon 4044, Papa Company, 4th Recruit Training Battalion and is scheduled to graduate on Nov. 17, 2017.
“She is excited about anything or everything you put in front of her,” said Cpl. Cameron Philips, an administrative clerk with Headquarters and Service Battalion. “She is very social and energetic; her people skills are why she will fulfill her new roll excellently.”